The realm of what's possible at Nazare has yet to be capped. There always seems to be a caveat for why a macking pulse of swell hasn't fully delivered. Too west. Wind too strong. Too wild. Too heavy. As of right now, the report for Sunday looks like it could be one of the largest swells to hit Nazare in some time – and yet, it's coming from the west.
What we know about Nazare is grounded in facts. Remember Rodrigo Koxa's biggest wave ever surfed at Portugal's hyper wave, on November 8 2017? The swell was smaller than what's forecast for Sunday, but it rifled from the NW, rather than the W like it will do on the weekend.
Given the swell direction, it's unlikely we'll get that classic Nazare tee-pee shape. The strong offshore winds.
So, could we see the biggest wave ever surfed at Nazare on the weekend? To put it simply, it's unlikely we'll see a new record set - but, let's get into why that is, even though though the swell is forecast to be much bigger. MSW forecaster Tony Butt explains: “The difference between the two swells is that direction, which makes a big difference to the behaviour of the waves as they feel the Nazare Canyon.
“More extreme refraction on northwest swells mean that relatively small offshore wave heights can sometimes produce gigantic A-frame peaks. In contrast, west swells approach the coastline more square-on, resulting in less extreme refraction. Whatever happens, this weekend’s swell is going to be exceptional.”
Exceptional, that's certainly the right way to describe it. About this swell compared to the forecast of the biggest wave ever surfed, Tony adds: “The current situation is quite different from that which produced the massive Nazaré waves back in November 2017. That swell was generated by a low that originally developed off Cape Farewell then tracked eastwards south of Iceland generating a large swell, the majority of which hit Ireland on November 7. A north-westerly swipe hit Portugal the day after with offshore wave heights around 12 feet. The current swell is coming from directly west of Portugal, and is much bigger.”
And to break this fresh swell down even further, Tony gets into its inception: “Today’s chart shows an already-strong low over Newfoundland which is just about to deepen dramatically as it moves out into the open Atlantic.
“The forecast for midday Thursday shows an area of hurricane-force westerly winds on its southern flank, which moves east, generating a humungous westerly swell as it goes.
“A massive, long-period west swell will be generated by this system, with open-ocean wave heights west of the Azores expected to exceed 40 feet during Friday. The first of the swell will reach Portugal by around the middle of Saturday, with periods over 20 secs and offshore wave heights steadily increasing to 20 feet or more at westerly exposures overnight and into Sunday. Wave heights at places enhanced by local refraction – Nazare being the obvious example – will exceed 30 feet.
“That small low developing west of Portugal on Saturday means that local wind conditions are still difficult to predict. The latest forecasts north of Lisbon show fresh south or southeast on Saturday becoming light east or southeast on Sunday.”
Nervous excitement. That should sum up the mood for Nazare for this weekend. Friday could be a solid paddle day, Sunday could be one for the most committed. Then, Monday may even be a remarkable paddle day. We'll bring you updates from all over the weekend, so keep it here on MSW.
Cover image, Rodrigo's record breaker by Helio Antonio.